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Equifax Data Breach Sparks U.S. Government Focus

September 7th, 2017

By: Connor Breza

 

Credit reporting agency Equifax publicly announced a major data breach yesterday, potentially compromising the personal information of up to 143 million U.S. consumers. The company reported that the breach occurred between mid-May and July this summer and put consumer’s sensitive information at risk, including Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers. According to the company, “[c]riminals exploited a U.S. website application vulnerability to gain access to certain files,” and there is “no evidence of unauthorized access to core consumer or commercial credit reporting database.”

 

The Hill reports that several members of Congress are already moving to investigate the breach, including House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex) and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex) of the House Homeland Security Committee. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) are also pushing for hearings to investigate Equifax and the breach.

 

According to The Hill, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) referred to the breach as “profoundly troubling,” further stating that, “[t]he scope of this breach … raises serious questions about whether Congress should not only create a uniform data breach notification standard, but also whether Congress needs to rethink data protection policies, so that enterprises such as Equifax have fewer incentives to collect large, centralized sets of highly sensitive data like SSNs and credit card information on millions of Americans.”

 

Issuing their own statements, the FTC and the National Cyber Security Alliance have provided steps consumers can take to better protect themselves online and help ensure proper online security precautions are taken. The FTC suggests: Checking your credit reports; consider placing a credit freeze on your files; monitor your existing credit cards and bank accounts closely; consider placing a fraud alert on your files; and file your taxes early.

 

According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, the following steps can help consumers stay safer after a breach: Use strong authentication for all email, social media, and financial accounts; prevent computer viruses that can compromise your system with proper software; monitor activity on your financial and credit card accounts; and delete any suspicious emails you receive.

 

Equifax Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Richard F. Smith issued an apology to consumers and stated that Equifax “pride[s] [itself] on being a leader in managing and protecting data, and we are conducting a thorough review of our overall security operations. We also are focused on consumer protection and have developed a comprehensive portfolio of services to support all U.S. consumers, regardless of whether they were impacted by this incident.”

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